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American Hysteria

Author: chelsey weber-smith

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American Hysteria explores the moral panics, conspiracy theories, urban legends, and fantastical thinking that shape our culture and why we end up fearing and believing in the unreal. Using sociology, psychology, biology, and a whole lot of research, poet-turned-podcaster Chelsey Weber-Smith charts their own journey from fantastical thinker to flexible skeptic, while detailing the sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying stories of American freak-outs from the Puritans to the present, and the complex social issues around race, gender, sexuality, and class that they often act to cover up.
102 Episodes
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Pride Rerelease! This is a listener favorite. Back in 2018, I had my two Christian friends on the show, who wished to remain anonymous, as they shared some pretty anti-establishment opinions. Brianna is a poet who got her masters with me at the University of Virginia, and her husband Patrick has a master’s degree in biblical and theological studies and teaches the bible at a private high school. Brianna and Patrick are dedicated to questioning and exploring their faith in big ways, and today we’ll talk about their changes of heart as young Christians, what the the Bible says about homosexuality in its historical context, and how the philosophy of queerness just might help save the Christian faith. Next week: Gender Reveal Parties Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me Head to brickhousesleep.com and use promo code HYSTERIA for 15% off your first order
Listen or re-listen to learn all about our panics surrounding what amounts to the queer illuminati and their evil plans to recruit children and overthrow the government, plus some queer history of the US dating back to precolonial indigenous tribes. We are leading up to our pride special coming later in the month on our new and dangerous American obsession, Gender Reveal Parties. Look for more Pride content all through June! Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me     Head to tryfirstleaf.com/hysteria to get 6 bottles of wine for $29.95 Head to brickhousesleep.com and use promo code HYSTERIA for 15% off your first order  
Finally, it is ME CHELSEY WEBER-SMITH as our interview guest, questioned lovingly by our producer Miranda Zickler. We will discuss season four, what I learned, what we didn’t cover and why, the power of the Rainbow Coalition solidarity, couples we would make out with in a haunted house, a dream dinner party with Mary-Kate and Ashley, the importance of Teen Dramas, and yes that’s right, I talk for too long about my spiritual journey and current relationship to the Great Unknown. Thank you for a great season everyone! We will be back soon. Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me   Head to tryfirstleaf.com/hysteria to get 6 bottles of wine for $29.95 Head to brickhousesleep.com and use promo code HYSTERIA for 15% off your first order This episode was hosted by Miranda Zickler (listen to Shiny Little Corners now!) Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Urban Legends

Urban Legends

2021-05-0301:01:024

The kids' book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was based largely on urban legends, and when I read them for the first time I realized that I had heard them before, but as something true that happened to a friend of a friend. For our season four finale, I will be sharing my own journey with contemporary myths, from that first book series through the 1998 teen slasher Urban Legend, the landmark work of Mr. Urban Legend, and the man who finally got to the bottom of the most memorable story from my mom’s own childhood: The Bunny Man (I’ll let her tell you about it). So come sit around the midnight campfire, listen to some of the greatest hits, and see what they have to tell us about ourselves and our society, and what they have to do with the tangled mess of conspiracy theories we find ourselves in today. Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me Head to tryfirstleaf.com/hysteria to get 6 bottles of wine for $29.95 Finding You is out May 14th American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research and co-writing by Riley Smith Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler (listen to Shiny Little Corners now!) Voice acting by Will Rogers Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
In preparation for our season finale next week on Urban Legends, we wanted to replay our deep dive into the 2018 viral internet urban legend about "Momo", a creepy humanoid figure with giant eyes, an uncanny too-wide smile, and grotesque chicken legs. Momo was somehow believed to be involved in mysterious texts that teens and kids were receiving on messaging apps, giving them escalating dangerous challenges sometimes ending in self-harm and suicide. Obviously, these kind of stories abound in the days of the viral internet, but they are actually part of a much older folklore tradition. Next week we will look at the last 50 years of American urban legends to see how we started to figure out that many of the stories we love to tell are simply too good to be true. Become a Patron! Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast
Horror Movies, pt. 2

Horror Movies, pt. 2

2021-04-1957:411

The genres of modern scary movies known as slashers, meta-horror, torture porn, and social thrillers, each tell us about the anxieties of the generation in which they came to exist. Like part one, this episode explores the themes present in some of the most important films in the horror canon; themes of feminism and satanic ritual abuse, of Reagan-era morality and greed, of moral ambiguity in times of war, and those that are coming to define the smoldering culture wars we find ourselves in today. With a never-ending series of sequels, each new American terror resurrects our collective fear, making it perfectly clear that horror never dies. Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me Check out Hark here to experience podcasts in a new way! Head to tryfirstleaf.com/hysteria to get 6 bottles of wine for $29.95 Check out the Queery podcast today! American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research and co-writing by Riley Smith Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler Friggin incredible voice acting by Will Rogers and Miranda Zickler (Check our Miranda's band Kuinka and their new single All Mine) Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Rewind: Monsters

Rewind: Monsters

2021-04-1235:153

We need a little extra time for Horror Movies II, so here is a re-release of a very related and very important episode. Monsters come from the darkness, from the depth of lakes and swamps, from the shadows of forests and hills, and live too in the dark parts of all of us. However, this episode is less about Bigfoot and more about the idea of the monstrous, and how it has been used as a tool to demonize black folks since the first slave ships landed in America, both through folktales and famous works of fiction. We also explore how Darwin's theory of evolution affected white Americans and led to the actual creation of human zoos that displayed African people as both the missing link and blood-thirsty monsters. Become a Patron! Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast
Carmen Maria Machado is the author of three books, the award-winning Her Body and Other Parties, a collection of vibrantly haunting short stories, In the Dream House, a bestselling memoir and examination of queer relationship abuse, and most recently, a graphic novel horror story called The Low Low Woods. She has also taught several courses at the University of Pennsylvania, most relevant today, a fiction course called The Art of Haunting. Today we are over the harvest moon to talk to Carmen about haunted house motifs in American horror movies, the emotional core of these stories, and our personal experiences with various kinds of ghosts, both the scary and the beautiful. Get yourself a copy of Carmen’s books!: In the Dreamhouse, Her Body and Other Parties, and The Low Low Woods Next time on the show: Horror Movies pt. 2 Head to TryFirstLeaf.com/HYSTERIA to get six customized wines delivered to your door for just $29.95! Become a Patron to watch our entire Live Variety Hour and our brand new podcast Walk with Me Produced by Miranda Zickler Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch and more at americanhysteria.com
Lil Nas X and the sexy-ass Satanic imagery featured in Call Me By Your Name has sparked a mini Satanic panic, especially after his Satan Shoes went viral, the ones that contain a drop of human blood. This two-part re-release of our Satanic Panic episodes dives deep into evil cartoons, toys, and games, heavy metal's backward messages, the suspicion of hypnotized teenaged devil worshippers, fake memoirs by alleged members of Satanic cults, and the unfortunate union between feminist and fundamentalist therapists that caused a wave of false accusations of outrageous ritual abuse committed against children. ENJOY. Follow us on social media IG: @americanhysteriapodcast Twitter: @amerhysteria
Horror Movies, pt. 1

Horror Movies, pt. 1

2021-03-2955:084

Horror movies, consistently written-off by critics, exist unbound from mainstream respectability and because of this, they can often tell us the brutal truth. For this two-part series, we will be investigating what horror movies, their plots, their victims, and their villains reflect back to us about the dominant repressed fears of each generation. From the Big Bug movies of the atomic era, the earliest monster movies of post-WWI eugenics, the psychotherapy gender-panic of Psycho inspiration Ed Gein, to the new age of gore born from the violence of the late 1960s, horror movies may be vital in helping us survive the true terrors of American life. Come back next week for Return of the Horror Movies where we cover the 1970s to the present with all the teenaged blood and guts you could ever dream of! Subscribe to Euphomet now! Subscribe to Lolita Podcast now!   Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research and co-writing by Riley Smith Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler Voice acting by Will Rogers Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Leading up to our two-part Horror Movies series, we wanted to return to this little prequel focused on one of my most favorite horror movies ever and the wild story behind one of the most successful horror hoaxes of all time. So listen for the first time or rewind this old Blockbuster VHS and listen again. For more on horror movies and their link to culture, check out our other episodes on Monsters, Rednecks, the Satanic Panic, Phantom Clowns, and Talking to the Dead. There is always more content on our patreon at patreon.com/americanhysteria
Mara Wilson is a writer, actor, and the former star of the 1996 classic movie Matilda as well as the author of the memoir 'Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame'. In this episode, Mara shares her relationship to the character that many in the public still see her as 25 years later, and we talk about the dramaturgy of living, our on-stage and off-stage personas, and for Mara, the pressure that comes from yet another mask. We’ll also talk about mental health, queerness, drag and burlesque, and finding one's self among those who most fully embrace the performance. Get a copy of Mara's book Where Am I Now? Subscribe to Queery now! Become a Patron to watch our entire Live Variety Hour and our brand new podcast Walk with Me Produced by Miranda Zickler Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch and more at americanhysteria.com
Influencers

Influencers

2021-03-0853:554

The new American archetype known as the “Influencer” has existed in various forms long before the advent of social media, and long before Kendall Jenner and the offensive brand activism of a now infamous Pepsi commercial. For this episode, we will trace the history of how corporate brands have used the idea of personal “authenticity” to sell us shit we don’t need since the mid 1800s: we’ll hear about the early form of visual social media that swept America in the 1860s, the story of the first living brand, Aunt Jemima, the handcrafted PR industry created by Sigmund Freud’s propagandist nephew, the skateboard sponsorships of the late 1990s. We’ll look too at the psychological and biological imperatives behind the “brand”, both those of companies and those of our own, and whether this thing we call authenticity even exists at all. Subscribe to Lolita Podcast now! Become a Patron to get access to our brand new podcast Walk with Me   American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research and co-writing by Riley Smith Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler Voice acting by Will Rogers Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Gael Aitor is a senior in high school and the host of the podcast Teenager Therapy, a show where he and four other teenagers talk about mental health and the experiences they share with a rare and empathetic nuance. Today Gael and I will explore the differences and similarities between Gen Z and Millennials and the importance of moving through our egos and being vulnerable. Today, I’ll check in with the kids to find out if they are, in fact, alright. Next week: Influencers Make sure you subscribe to Teenager Therapy! Subscribe to Beach Too Sandy Water Too Wet Become a Patron to watch our entire Live Variety Hour and our brand new podcast Walk with Me Produced by Miranda Zickler Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch and more at americanhysteria.com
Children's Programming

Children's Programming

2021-02-1553:006

As the nation grapples with a volatile culture war over just what version of American history our children will grow up learning, in this episode we will see that the Public School has always been a complicated, explosive, sometimes bizarre socio-political battleground. We’ll look at the messy transformations of children’s curricula through the conservative and progressive clashes over the bible, evolution, Black anti-literacy laws, Indian boarding schools, anti-commie-patriotism, good suburban morals, multiculturalism, and a radical public television program called Sesame Street. Become a Patron to get access to our brand new podcast Walk with Me Subscribe to Everyone's a Critic! American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research and co-writing by Riley Smith Voice acting by Will Rogers Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler   Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, it really helps us out!   Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Ellen Cushing's recent piece in The Atlantic called “I was a teenage conspiracy theorist” tells her story as a young Illuminati-truther during the post-9/11 years. Her history with conspiracy theories isn't all that different from my own, so I asked Ellen to join me to talk about our experiences to try to explain what these stories were like back in the 2000s, and how they intersect with the stories we hear now. We’ll also ask the biggest question of all, how do we combat this alternate reality? As the subtitle on Ellen’s article reads, “Want to know why wild conspiracism can be so irresistible? Ask a 14-year-old girl.” Read Ellen's piece, I Was a Teenage Conspiracy Theorist Become a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly, including our brand new podcast Walk with Me This episode has sound by Clear Common Studios Produced by Miranda Zickler Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, it really helps us out!   Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Join me and our Disney darling of the day, podcaster Sarah Marshall of ‘You’re Wrong About’ and ‘Why Are Dads?’ as we discuss our love for Disney parks, the weird history of animatronics, and Disneyland’s hilarious, disastrous opening day. So grab a Dole Whip, sit back and enjoy the tour through this gleefully haunted mansion of America. Listen to You’re Wrong About Listen to Why Are Dads? Subscribe to the One Strange Thing podcast today!   Thanks to our sponsor Skillshare, get your free trial of Premium Membership skillshare.com/hysteria Become a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly, including our brand new podcast Walk with Me   Produced by Miranda Zickler Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch and more at americanhysteria.com
Disneyfication

Disneyfication

2021-01-2557:033

Disney has been presenting a fairytale reality within a reality since the 1920s, a far cuter reality that mimics our reality until reality is no longer reality at all. Make sense? For this episode, we will look at the possible underlying biological reasons for the success of the Disney corporation and the history of this ever-softening societal construction we call childhood. We’ll explore both the finished and unrealized projects of the company, and how they have long presented us with a much sweeter version of our past, present, and future. So join us as we trace the American dream that started with a mythic man named Walt Disney and see if you can tell what’s real. Next week: Animatronic America with Sarah Marshall of ‘You’re Wrong About’ and ‘Why Are Dads?’ This episode was sponsored by Anchor, head to Anchor.fm to make your own podcast! Subscribe to the One Strange Thing podcast today!   Become a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly, including our brand new podcast Walk with Me     American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research and co-writing by Riley Smith Voice acting by Will Rogers Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, it really helps us out! Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Alissa Bennett is co-host of The C-Word podcast on Luminary as well as a decorated historian of bad behavior. “By sifting through the cultural trash heap of history,” her podcast dives deep into the lives of famous women who have been called "Crazy" throughout history, the stories that we’re told about them through the tabloid press, and the real life that was happening behind the scenes. Alissa is also the author of four zines; collections of essays reflecting on dozens of fascinating characters in pop culture deviance. She mines the depths of the internet for strange truths and even stranger gossip, while weaving in personal anecdotes of her own. Today we will be discussing why we love trash media of all kinds. We’ll even give The Final Thought, usually reserved for Jerry Springer, to Alissa’s child genius Ollie. Let's get trashy. Check out the C-Word podcast and Alissa's Zines Subscribe to the One Strange Thing podcast today! Thanks to our sponsor Skillshare, get your reef trial of Premium Membership skillshare.com/hysteria Become a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly, including our brand new podcast Walk with Me Produced by Miranda Zickler Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
Trash Talk Shows

Trash Talk Shows

2021-01-1157:534

There are few pieces of popular culture as problematic as the trash talk shows of the 1980s and 90s. Many of us remember Jerry Springer, Geraldo, Jenny Jones, and so many others trying to outdo each other in a parade of sensationalized deviance. The more outrageous, the better, but some of what was considered outrageous then is different than it is today. These programs certainly reinforced stereotypes and exploited their guests for profit, but like the Freak Shows of the past, they also offered national visibility for unseen individuals and the groups they represented. This episode explores how this platform changed American culture for better and for worse, the elitist attitudes that looked down on this low brow entertainment, and how these hallmark American productions are mirrored in our fist fights today, online and off Thanks to our sponsor Skillshare, get your reef trial of Premium Membership skillshare.com/hysteria Subscribe to the One Strange Thing podcast today! Become a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly, including our brand new podcast Walk with Me   American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research and co-writing by Riley Smith Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler   Follow American Hysteria on social media: Twitter: @AmerHysteria Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Find our merch at americanhysteria.com
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Comments (65)

Kayla of the Library

This podcast makes me want to change the world! Thank you!!

May 18th
Reply

Kayla of the Library

I nearly gagged and cried in disgust. How did and do such idelogies such as (strict gender roles, people as objects, and a birth right to sex) spread to the point of common acceptance!? It hurts me to know that all these horrible issues exist so strongly! It hurts me more to know I have yet to do anything to make a change.

May 4th
Reply

Robin Michelle Goldblum

Love this show!!

Mar 12th
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Michael DeFauw

This is my favorite episode so far..even though it’s an older one. I’ve been saying this for years, that the hysteria surrounding Halloween candy is just a myth. But, your breakdown of the candy hysteria was done WAY better than I ever did!

Feb 12th
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Heidi M. Fanning

This was such a treat! It was great to hear two podcasters whom I adore talking about the fun, fascinating, strangely dark phenomenon that is animatronics!

Feb 1st
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Jessica Jones

I just started listening and oh, wow! I fucking love this podcast!

Jan 22nd
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GlitterandGore

Ugh. Elliot, women didn’t throw themselves at you because of your beliefs and actions. What woman wants to be with someone who feels entitled to a woman’s body just because he has a penis... why is this so hard for incels to understand? When you believe women deserved to be raped and treated as sex slaves... you’re going to have a bad time.

Jan 7th
Reply

Heidi M. Fanning

I love Glynn Washington! He is an amazing podcaster and a genuinely good person.

Dec 14th
Reply

Heidi M. Fanning

This was a great episode!

Oct 19th
Reply

ID19619055

I appreciate that you clarify that gender identity and sexual orientation are separate. Thank you!

Oct 9th
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Carly Strickland

👀 this episode hits very weird in 2020

Sep 18th
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Kayla of the Library

Ugh.. I don't understand my own species. Great show! I learned a lot!

Aug 26th
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EL1AS

Love it! You mentioned a lot of things I have been thinking about lately and what is happening in the nation. A sort of inner battle between the generations and the questioning of old policies and traditions.

Jul 24th
Reply (1)

Katherine Bode Claude

agggghh you don't say the s in Des Moines. 🤣

Jul 15th
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Arash S. Gooya

awesome

Apr 22nd
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ABR

Doesn't make sense that the KKK would have formed in 1856 by former Confederate soldiers, considering the Civil War hadn't happened yet....

Mar 10th
Reply

Sol Neeam

Absolutely fascinating episode!!!

Mar 6th
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William RIker

Due to your total lack of honest information in this subject, I am unsubscribing to your podcast. I was insulted by your ignorance on this issue and the way you presented your opinion as having more weight than actual fact based podcast. If you want an honest look at vaping, might I suggest The New Yorker The Daily podcast that dealt honestly and frankly with this issue.. I wish you good luck with your future endeavors. I pray that you will realize that your opinions are just that - an opinion, not something you need to present as truth. I do know people who are in severe health due to vaping, they used JUUL and did not buy black market or counterfeit products as you incorrectly said on your podcast. Please for the sake of those who might listen, for they don't know better, Grow Up. Sincerely Yours, a former listener.

Nov 23rd
Reply (1)

William RIker

Just listened to the absolute worst episode and podcast I have ever heard. Your comments were based not on fact, but your own opinion. Just because you are obviously Millennial's does not mean you totally ignore the factual evidence. I would highly suggest you listen to the Podcast The Daily, as they did a 2 part series on vaping. Due to your attitude toward the facts, I am unsubscribing from your podcast. I can no longer even condone such blatant ignorance and the harm that others face if they even give remote credence to your opinionated piece. By the way, I have 2 friends that thought Juul was what would help them finally quit smoking, both are in ICU due to the chemicals used and what it did to their respiratory systems. Both of these young adults, have had their lives severly diminished by. vaping and the lack of testing before it was allowed to hit the market.

Nov 20th
Reply

Hannah Morgan

Great podcast, I like the way you've explored the issues.

Oct 1st
Reply
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